CAIRO – Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the highest seat of religious learning in the Sunni world, has condemned the violence committed against Rohingya Muslims, urging an action by international and Muslim countries.
“The world has witnessed over the past few days reports circulating in the media of terrifying and horrifying photos for acts of murdering, displacement, burning, genocide, and brutal massacres that have led to the killing of hundreds of women, children, youth, and the elderly, who have been besieged in Rakhine State in Burma,” the statement, signed by Grand Imam, was cited by Al-Ahram newspaper on Friday, September 8.
The statement, published on Al-Azhar’s Facebook page, called on the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the European Union, the United Nations, and Arab and Muslim countries to take all political and economic pressures to force Burma to stop religious and racial discrimination.
Al-Azhar also called on all international and human rights organizations to “take the required procedures to investigate in these shameful crimes, trace those who committed them, and deliver them to International Court of Justice as war criminals.”
More than 1,000 people may already have been killed in Burma, mostly minority Rohingya Muslims, a senior United Nations representative told AFP on Friday.
In the last two weeks alone 270,000 mostly Rohingya civilians have fled to Bangladesh, overwhelming refugee camps that were already bursting at the seams, the UN said.
The statement stressed that the denouncements from international organizations are not enough.
Adding that if the victims were “Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, or any other religion but Muslim” these organizations would have reacted more quickly and firmly.
The statement referred to Al-Azhar’s efforts in solving the conflict in Rakhine by bringing the different parties to peace talks in Cairo earlier this year.
Described by the UN as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, Burma’s ethnic-Bengali Muslims, generally known as the Rohingyas, are facing a catalog of discrimination in their homeland.
They have been denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are treated as illegal immigrants.
Burma’s government as well as the Buddhist majority refuse to recognize the term “Rohingya,” referring to them as “Bengalis.”
Construction of mosques and religious schools in the region was banned in 1962 when military rule was first established in the country.